MP3 Kevin Hemphill & The Nightbirds - Live at The Flipside
15 MP3 Songs
BLUES: Texas Style, BLUES: Rockin'' Blues
Blues has always been at the heart of everything that band members Kevin Hemphill (guitar/vocals), Matt Asbury (bass), Jack Cullen (drums/vocals) and Bill Dowe (Hammond/piano} have ever played. So it made perfect sense for the four of them to be playing the music they loved – blues! Having played together in multiple bands (“SOULCANDY”, “BETTER OFF BOUND”) for the past 5 years, Kevin and Matt decided to pursue their love of the blues, specifically Stevie Ray Vaughan, after their last band, “BETTER OFF BOUND” split up after performing over 160 shows in 18 months.
Guitarist Kevin Hemphill, a Greensboro, NC native and a regular on the local music scene (since Junior High School) started his music career in a metal band called “MINDS IN MOTION” and later, “ILL CONCEIVED”. Kevin recalls that “ILL CONCEIVED was music you could sink your teeth into. I lived that band day and night for so many years.”
Kevin heard his first SRV song at a party sometime in the late 90’s. That was the moment that his musical path was made clear—“I had to play the music that I felt would project all the emotion, expression and raw power that the blues had to offer”.
This experience led him to answer an ad for a “bluesy” guitar player in a local music paper. The band was “NIGHT SHIFT” and that’s where Kevin met Matt (the bass player) for the first time.
Bassist Matt Asbury, a Bluefield, WV native, and Hemphill left “NIGHT SHIFT” and formed “SOULCANDY”. After playing over 110 shows in 19 months, “SOULCANDY” went their separate ways. Kevin and Matt then started “BETTER OFF BOUND” which rolled along for 18 months but ultimately did not fulfill the two’s creative muse. After taking a short break from the local music scene, Kevin and Matt started jamming on the music of SRV and decided that they wanted to get back to their love – the blues.
They began rehearsing and jamming on many blues standards (with the aid of a drum machine) until a decision was made to start auditioning drummers. They knew they wanted to form what Gov’t Mule members Warren Haynes and Allen Woody called a “power blues trio”. “We wanted a good solid drummer who could improvise and share our love of the blues” stated Matt. The guy’s placed an add, ironically, in the same local music paper that Kevin had read years before. In the latter part of May 2005, (crash-boom-bam) Jack Cullen walked into their rehearsal studio and sat up his drum kit. It took the three of them one song to realize the chemistry that was happening was for real….”We knew right off that Jack was our man” said Kevin. The band was solidified at that moment.
Drummer Jack Cullen, a native of Narragansett, RI, has played in many bands over the years. He spent time serving his country in the Vietnam War and upon discharge moved to Tallahassee FL where he performed with such bands as “THE RICHARD DURKE BAND” and “SOUTHERN WIND” – “They were good bands, a great primer for what we do now.”
Wood-shedding for a few months and methodically laying out their song list, the group was at the point where they felt they could get out and start playing for the people and fans who knew something “BIG” was ready to happen. On August 27th 2005, the band played their first show at Whiskers Roadhouse in Floyd, VA in front of a full house of beer drinkers and hell raisers. “It was one of those nights that everything just clicked” said Matt. “We were ready for the fans and the fans were ready for us”. The show was a major success and it opened many doors for us even to this day…
Our next pinnacle was the 2005 Blues Challenge which was sponsored by the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society. Sixteen bands on one stage over 2 days. Hot and sweaty for sure but as B.B. King says, “you can’t play the Blues in an air conditioned room” and he was right. Although the band did not advance to the finals, they got a lot of good feedback from the audience and judges alike. “We kicked ass and the crowd appreciated it ” said Jack… “It was down-n-dirty, guitar-driven, roadhouse-boogie blues played like it should be played. The way they played in juke joints for decades”.
In December of 2005, the band independently released their first CD, entitled "From the Beginning". The band''s first single, a cover of the SRV instrumental "So Excited", spent 2 weeks at # 1 on the https://www.tradebit.com World-Wide Blues Charts in July, 2005. The next single, "Got My Mojo Workin” spent 5 weeks on the chart, peaking at # 4 back in December, 2005. “Further On Up the Road” spent 10 weeks in the Top Ten of the Soundclick World-Wide Blues Charts in early 2006.
With all the hard work the band was putting in, they started making bigger strides in the regional music scene. The band was selected to perform at the 2006 Shiner Bock Twin City Ribfest (https://www.tradebit.com) along with many favorite local and regional bands. In addition to the RibFest show, the band is currently playing anywhere from 3-5 shows a month all over the NC/SC/VA region.
This “power-house trio band” has always entertained the notion of one day adding to their already established sound an organ/piano player, preferably a Hammond Organ type of sound, to blend with them. “We tried some keyboardist out but there was either a personality clash or just a musical clash. We all kept our eyes and ears opened” stated Matt.
On a particular slow night at the hospital where Matt works as a nurse, he was talking to one of his fellow nurses who shared a love of the blues. She told Matt about her boyfriend Bill, who plays keyboards and piano. She said, “I think he has a Hammond Organ”. Matt almost hit the floor and said, “How do I get in touch with him?” She said, “I’ll call him now”. This was 2 in the morning. She started to call Bill when the secretary told her she had an incoming call. It was Bill. Hard to believe but true. Bill and Matt spent the next few minutes talking blues. A rehearsal was set up for the following Sunday. Matt sent a set list via e-mail to Bill and after one rehearsal Bill played his first gig with the band at the Dive Bar in Raleigh. “We got to rehearse a couple more times with Bill and liked what he was doing so we invited him to play with us at Copperhoods in High Point where we introduced him as our newest member” said Kevin.
Bill has been involved in the Piedmont Music scene in different genres over 30 years. In the 70’s he played guitar with “PAMLICO SOUND” a rock group. The 80’s took him into “THE NIGHTLIFE” playing acoustic guitar in a folk-rock fashion with 2 female vocalist, bass and electric guitar. After 2 years Bill formed “QUICK IMAGE” playing organ/piano for an original music band featuring many of Bill’s self written songs along with Led Zeppelin’, ZZ Top and an array of different rocking band covers. “We played mainly (80%) original at the time and had a big following” staying busy up until 1988 when Bill switched from keys to bass and helped form “MEMPHIS JAKE AND THE DISRUPTERS”. This was my first stint in an “all blues band”. We had a great 7 year run with that band being voted as the “Best Blues Band” in the triad in 1992. “MJ” went MIA and we continued on as “THE DISRUPTERS” opening for “THE MARSHALL TUCKER BAND”, the “CHARLIE DANIELS BAND” and placing 2nd in the Charlotte Blues Preservation Talent Search. “THE DISRUPTERS” dissolved in Nov. of ‘97 and Bill did a 6month tour with Greensboro’s own “MISDEMEANORS” where he played organ/piano. “That’s the busiest band that I ever was affiliated with. We would play sometimes 10 times in a month”. It was a good experience but inner-personnel problems spoiled the group and they disbanded. The next few years Bill had quite a few health problems to contend with so he stayed off the road and continued writing and recording at his studio “Born-Wel Productions” in Winston Salem. “I would help local song-writers record their demos. I got a chance to meet a lot of interesting people during that time and have helped some local talent get air-play and gigs”. Bill has been a DJ for WQFS 90.9 in Greensboro for the past 4 years. His show “The Whittles and Dowe Show” can be heard from 6am-8am on Fridays.
The band is currently writing original material that will be put out on the band’s next CD, along with some songs that fans have come to know and love from their live shows. The band is shooting for a release date of early 2007.
The band is constantly adding new songs, not only from the blues genre but also blues/rock and classic rock, the future is certainly filled with COLD BEER & HOT BLUES for this "power blues quartet" as they bring the attitude and sound of Texas blues to every stage and every song they play…carving out a sound that the band dubs “TEX-OLINA BLUES”! Basically it is music to drink and dance to…two things that EVERY club owner in the world wants to see happening in his or her establishment.